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March 1992


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Doyle Burke <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 10 Mar 1992 08:11:51 MST
text/plain (38 lines)
Your analysis of the propoganda film reminded me of two films from the 1950's
that had a significant impression on me.
The first was I WAS A COMMUNIST FOR THE FBI.  The story concerned an undercover
agent who infiltrated the communist party, but who was ostracized by his
neighbors.  He returned to his apartment one day and discovered a young boy
in the hallway with a bat.  The agent took the opportunity to show the boy a
bunting stance (as I recall), but the boy's father intruded, telling the
agent that baseball was an "American sport."
I recall most vividly the closing scene in which the agent appeared at a trial.
Upon taking the oath, the prosecutor asked him to state his name and disclose
his position, whereupon the agent said, "I was a communist for the FBI>"
The moment was electrifying.  I was twelve or thirteen at the time and living in
the South; Thus, my emotions were somewhat predictable.
Another film, however, took me by surprise.  STEEL HELMET is the story of
American troops in South Korea who discover that enemy soldiers are Chinese,
not North Koreans.
The company captures Chinese soldiers and hold them for questioning, but find
themselves surrounded.  During their wait, the Chinese soldiers begin to
question a Black soldier, asking why he fights for a country that forces
him to ride in the back of the bus.
"Yeah," I thought to myself, "Why is he?"  With great relief, the soldier
replied that one day he would sit in front.
That film scene prompted me to begin to view racial discrimination more
Film as propoganda is hardly new (Lenin, Riefensthal, English documentary
filmmakers, American filmmakers in WWII).  However, films also have an
unanticipated influence.